A semester designed for students seeking an academically rigorous program
As a student in the Scholars' Semester in Oxford (SSO), you are an official member of Wycliffe Hall and a Registered Visiting Student of the University of Oxford (a privilege for very few visiting students). This is your access point to a 900-year history, world-recognized academic excellence, and 119 libraries, with their 11 million books and outstanding electronic resources.
SSO is designed specifically for students seeking an academically robust program. It begins with the primary and secondary tutorials. Here, you and an accomplished Oxford scholar go head-to-head on a topic chosen from hundreds of subjects relating to history, literature, languages, philosophy or science. And when it’s all said, done, debated and graded, you'll return home with more questions than you brought with you.
SSO is an intensive study experience. While all majors may apply, it requires a 3.7 GPA at the minimum. Your Visiting Student status comes with extraordinary privileges such as: participating in Oxford’s athletic clubs, taking part in artistic organizations, and of course, an all-access pass to world-renowned libraries. It culminates in a program that many students find to be the perfect bridge from the undergraduate world to the world of graduate studies.
SSO is organized by SCIO, Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford, which is the UK subsidiary of BestSemester and the CCCU. It is a research centre based in Oxford working in close partnership with Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford. More info on SCIO's projects, staff, and activity can be found at www.scio-uk.org.
View courses for Best Semester Oxford Semester here.
SSO is not for the faint of heart. Designed specifically for students seeking an academically rigorous and robust experience like no other, even the brightest of minds will be stretched at SSO. It happens during your tutorials. Here, you and an accomplished Oxford scholar go head-to-head on a topic chosen from hundreds of subjects relating to history, literature, languages, philosophy or science. And when the semester is all said, done, debated and graded, you’ll return home with a community of alumni that continually reconnect over the bond that SSO creates.
RECOMMENDED CREDITS (17)
FIRST SEMESTER CREDITS
- Primary Tutorial (6)
- Secondary Tutorial (3)
- Undergraduate Research Seminar (4)
- British Studies Core Course (4)
SECOND SEMESTER (Optional) CREDITS
The tutorial is the heart of undergraduate teaching at Oxford. It is an hour long conversation between a tutor who is engaged in research and one student who has spent the week reading and writing an essay in answer to an assigned, searching question.
- Primary Tutorial (6)
- Secondary Tutorial (3)
- Thesis (4)
- British Studies Core Course: Further Studies* (4)
- Undergraduate Research Seminar* (4)
The tutorial gives students the chance to read in depth, to formulate their views on a subject, and to consider those views in the light of the detailed, analytical conversation in the tutorial. Students may choose their tutorials from a range of hundreds of topics within classics, English language and literature, history, history of art, modern languages, musicology, philosophy, and theology.
Students attend University lectures in conjunction with their primary and their secondary tutorials. Such lectures are offered by noted scholars who have published extensively in the field on which they are lecturing and also by political figures, leaders in other governmental and intergovernmental institutions, creative artists, and speakers from the professions and civil and armed services.
Tutorials are equivalent to upper-division courses, not introductory courses. Students normally need to have sufficient preparation for the subject chosen so that they can work at the expected advanced level. Students wanting to study British history, for example, need to have done some history work, though not necessarily in British history. Similarly, students wanting tutorials in Latin may never have studied Latin, but will have an aptitude for languages and experience of literary studies.
Each week during the University term, students attend their primary tutorial. Papers and assignments for the primary tutorial are due weekly.
Students attend their secondary tutorial every second week during the University term. Thus, papers are due every other week for the secondary tutorial. The secondary tutorial topic is different than the primary tutorial, but in all other respects, secondary tutorials run the same.
Tutorials topics are listed under nine topics (disciplinary concentrations).
- English Language and Literature
- History of Art
- Modern Languages
STUDENT LIFE IN OXFORD
With over 100 libraries and one-on-one personal tutorials every week with scholars on the given topic, students spend a lot of their time reading, writing, and walking the local neighborhoods...to ponder their reading and writing. If working at one of the best research establishments in the world excites you, then this is the program for you.
The main difference between U.S. and Oxford academics is Oxford's acclaimed tutorial system: a series of hour-long sessions in which you and your tutor, one-on-one, will focus with undivided attention on your response to a single, daunting prompt. This is the system students often describe as the most intimidating and satisfying academic experience of their lives. It will change the way you read books, write sentences, and think - and students will often return home feeling like athletes who have trained at high altitude.
SCIO has negotiated a bike rental system that is available without charge for all students housed at the Vines. If there are enough bikes, students living in the North Wing may also opt into this scheme at a subsidized cost on a first come, first-served basis. There are three different models from which to choose. You will receive more information about the bicycles upon acceptance to the program.
SCIO's spiritual mission is first to demonstrate that personal faith in Christ can flourish within an academically rigorous environment; can operate in a public university, and interacts with scholarship but not necessarily in ways that are obvious and easily labeled. Second, to help students acquire the maturity, vision, confidence, and skills to study in the public, research university and to encourage scholarly reflection in religious contexts and in a public, non-religious environment.
Learning to study alongside and under those of different religious beliefs (or, in many cases, none) is challenging. We encourage this by offering ourselves as a mentors/example, creating an atmosphere of independence in which students can develop such a vision and ability, and offering nurture by staff who are engaged and committed.
All students are encouraged to find a church home in Oxford. Apart from the spiritual nourishment that comes from remaining involved in regular worship, a church is a great place to meet other students and residents of the town. It creates opportunities for you to get to know the people in your community. Many students on the program make a point of attending a church whose style is markedly different from that which they usually attend at home, while other students find it a great comfort to attend a service whose style is more familiar. All students should think about what might best suit them while they are here.
SCIO has two Oxford residences:
Both residences have large common spaces where students can work, study, laugh and just chill out. Both properties have substantial gardens where, when the weather is accommodating, students can relax and read, or play football, croquet and ultimate frisbee.
SCIO places great significance on nurturing the student community that develops over the course of the semester. The program is academically demanding, and the support network that develops between all the students is essential in helping everyone feel that they are staying on top of things! Every semester many students have shared that over their time in Oxford they have formed some of their strongest ever friendships. The opportunity to live with like-minded people in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is exciting and profound.
Students applying to SSO will complete a rooming preference questionnaire that helps SCIO place students in the most suitable room available. There are several single rooms (mostly in the North Wing) but many are shared with between one to three other people.
North Wing, Wycliffe Hall
The North Wing is part of the main building of Wycliffe Hall, situated a 10-minute walk away from the centre of town. The North Wing is spread over four floors; each floor has its own bathroom facilities. There is also a large common room that is accessible to all Wycliffe and SCIO students, and there are laundry facilities, a kitchen and a dining room in the basement of an adjacent building. The entire building is wirelessly networked, and there is a garden at the back.
- Laundry facilities
- Printing facilities
- Large common room with TV and pool tables
- Large kitchen with dining area, plus a dining hall with kitchen staff (you are charged separately for each meal at the dining hall)
The Vines is a modest mansion on the crest of Headington Hill, situated on 1.5 acres of garden with stunning views of Oxford's spires. The Vines runs parallel to the path of C.S. Lewis's former commute, The Vines is a 35-minute walk into Oxford city centre, a 10-minute cycle ride, or a 5-minute walk to the nearest bus stop (with buses passing by every 6–7 minutes). It has a large kitchen, laundry facilities, a well-appointed common room and bathrooms for every 2-3 rooms.
- Laundry facilities
- IT and study room with work stations and printing facilities
- Large common room
- Dining room
- Large kitchen
- Wheelchair access and disability accommodation
- Prayer room
- Wireless network
Alongside the field trips organized as part of the program, Oxford staff arrange optional field trips that you can join if you want. These trips change from semester to semester, but in the past have included visits to London, Blenheim Palace, Snowdonia and the castles of Wales, and the Lake District and the Lake poets, as well as places further afield including Rome and Auschwitz. These trips are charged at cost and are very competitively priced.
- Around Oxford
- United Kingdom
The JCR committee is a distinctly Oxford institution and stands for the Junior Common Room. The JCR committee for the SSO program is a group of five to seven students from the programme who are voted by you once you have arrived, and is there to help run fun events for all the SSO students. It is always great fun to be part of the JCR committee, as you get a chance to make things happen the way you would like! The JCR committee has a sizable budget to help fund its various activities. Every JCR committee has its own way of running things, but usually every semester we have a variety / open mic night which showcases your talent. The JCR committee can also help organize activities that give you a chance to give something back to the community by helping in various charitable ways.
Every Semester SSO students enjoy competing alongside their fellow Oxford students in the various sports of the season. Most students who choose to join a team play other colleges in Oxford, but we have had many SSO students represent Oxford and play against other universities around the country. Sports that you can play include basketball, volleyball, football (soccer), archery, fencing, rowing, and table tennis. Nearly any sport that you enjoy is represented at Oxford.
CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
Oxford University has a club or society that covers almost any activity you can think of. There are several orchestras of varying standards and many choirs (some you have to audition for and some you do not). If you enjoy acting why not audition for a role in a play? One semester both lead roles in a dramatic production were filled with SSO students, and students have also helped with set design and lighting. Juggling, beagling, hiking, caving, movies, politics, debating ... you name it, there is a club somewhere in Oxford where you can meet other students from the University with similar interests.
There are numerous Christian activities going on during Full Term, and you will find that you are always welcome to participate while you are here. The CS Lewis Appreciation Society is also popular!
Be prepared for all types of weather over your semester in Oxford. There will be sunny stretches when you can read and study outside in the sleepy warm sunshine, and other times when you can have a snow fight in the University parks!
Whatever happens, you can guarantee that it will rain, so pack waterproof clothing!
TEA... AND FOOD, TOO.
Drinking tea is a vital element in the rhythm of the English person's day, and all students are encouraged to discover this for themselves. Its popularity is perhaps explained in part by the cakes and biscuits that traditionally accompany this drink. Students will be invited to tea at regular times during the week. it is an important time to relax, catch up with each other, and recharge for the rest of the day!
Apart from some lunches organized as part of the program, all students will need to prepare their own meals while in Oxford. This means shopping at one of the main supermarkets, going to the fresh farmer's market, or visiting the Covered Market, established in 1774. All students accepted to the program receive an up-to-date price list of various foods to help work out a budget.
Many students form food groups. The students in the group each take turns cooking and eat together at the end of each day. It is a great way to share with others what they have discovered that day and hear what everyone else has been doing!
There are plenty of places to eat out in Oxford, ranging from the affordable to the expensive. The cafe in St Mary's Church is a fun place to visit, as the cafe itself is in the Old Congregation House, and was the University's first 'official' building. It dates from the 14th century and was built a couple of hundred years after the colleges first started taking in students.
Oxford is a phenomenal study abroad opportunity, packed with intellectual challenges, cultural experiences, and lots of scones!
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